Vivo pulls out as 2020 IPL sponsor amid India-China border row

China’s Vivo will not be the title sponsor of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), the Indian cricket board (BCCI) has said, amid a growing backlash against Chinese companies in India.

Smartphone maker Vivo had secured the IPL sponsorship rights for 2018-2022 for nearly 22 billion rupees ($293m).

“The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Vivo Mobile India Pvt Ltd have decided to suspend their partnership for Indian Premier League in 2020,” the Indian board said in a statement on Thursday.

Earlier, an IPL governing council member told Reuters Vivo had withdrawn partly because of the weak business environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and partly because of widespread anti-China sentiment in India following a border clash.

Vivo did not respond to a request for comment. Indian cricket board (BCCI) President Sourav Ganguly and IPL Chairman Brijesh Patel did not reply to calls and messages from Reuters.

There is growing pressure on Chinese companies in India following a border clash in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

India has banned Chinese firm ByteDance’s TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps, and made approval processes more stringent for Chinese companies wanting to invest in the country.

‘Forced decoupling’

Last month, China warned that a “forced decoupling” of its economy with India would hurt both countries.

“China advocates win-win cooperation and opposes a zero-sum game,” Sun Weidong, the Chinese ambassador to India, wrote on Twitter. “Our economies are highly complementary, interwoven and interdependent. Forced decoupling is against the trend and will only lead to a ‘lose-lose’ outcome.”

The annual bilateral trade between the two Asian countries stand at $92bn but it is heavily skewed in Beijing’s favour.

The IPL Governing Council had in June said it would review its sponsorship deals in light of the border skirmish.

Yet, its decision to retain Vivo, taken over the weekend, sparked protests by a Hindu nationalist group close to India’s governing party which threatened to call for an IPL boycott unless the decision was reconsidered.

The BCCI was eager to retain Vivo as it would not be easy to find a new sponsor in the current economic environment, the IPL governing council member, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

The popular franchise-based Indian Twenty20 league, which could not be held this year in India because of the COVID-19 crisis, is set to be played in the United Arab Emirates from September 19.

Indian officials say Chinese troops have intruded on to its side in the remote western region, while China says it has not breached the disputed border and has asked India to restrain its front-line troops.

The two countries have held several rounds of military-level talks to disengage from their disputed border.

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